Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the country, and with good reason – miles and miles of backcountry trails, pristine mountain streams, waterfalls and soaring mountain peaks. One of the most biologically diverse areas in the world, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to rare plant and animal species and serves as a sanctuary for hundreds of black bears. Elk have been reintroduced into the park and are thriving in the Cataloochee Valley, a remote area of the Smokies accessible from Waynesville and Maggie Valley.
Along with appreciating the natural beauty of the area, you can also glimpse into the past at the many preserved historical landmarks and see how southern mountaineers created their own way of life in the Smokies – a culture that is still very much alive and well in communities surrounding the park.
Mountain Farm Museum
The Mountain Farm Museum is a unique collection of farm buildings assembled from locations throughout the park. Visitors can explore a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse, and a working blacksmith shop to get a sense of how families may have lived 100 years ago. Most of the structures were built in the late 19th century and were moved here in the 1950s. The Davis House is a rare chance to view a log house built from chestnut wood before the chestnut blight decimated the American Chestnut in our forests during the 1930s and early 1940s. The museum is adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
• Free admission
• Historic buildings
• Farm animals
• Demonstrations with costumed interpretations
A half-mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center is Mingus Mill. Built in 1886, this mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building. Located at its original site, Mingus Mill stands as a tribute to the test of time. Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily mid-March through mid-November. Also, open Thanksgiving weekend.
• Water flows down a millrace to the mill.
• A working cast iron turbine.
• A miller demonstrates the process of grinding corn into cornmeal.
• Cornmeal and other mill-related items are available for purchase at the mill.
Cataloochee Valley (Not Cataloochee Ski Area)
Cataloochee Valley is nestled among some of the most rugged mountains in the southeastern United States. Surrounded by 6000-foot peaks, this isolated valley was the largest and most prosperous settlement in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Once known for its farms and orchards, today’s Cataloochee is one of the most picturesque areas of the park.
Directions: The most direct route is to take Cove Creek Road (partially graveled) off route 276 near Dellwood, NC into Cataloochee. A more scenic route (not recommended for RVs) is to take a long winding road, route 32, from Cosby, TN to the TN/NC border. Here the road becomes gravel. It twists and winds into Cataloochee.
• Historic buildings: Cook Cabin reconstructed in Little Cataloochee.
• Fishing: Pick up fishing regulations at a park visitor center. A Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license is required to fish within park boundaries. A fishing license may be purchased in a nearby community.
• Camping: A primitive campground with 27 first-come, first- serve sites. Open mid-March – October. Tent or RVs up to 31 feet.
• Hiking: There are many enjoyable trails to hike in Cataloochee. Several of these designated backcountry campsites (camping by permit only) are along many of these trails.
• Wildlife viewing area
An 11-mile long loop road winds through the valley of Cades Cove offering visitors beautiful scenery and the opportunity to tour historic buildings and view wildlife. Visit the Cades Cove page for additional information about the cove.
• Historic buildings: Homes, churches, barns, and Cable Mill – a working grist mill
• Hiking: There are many enjoyable trails in the area including hikes to Abrams Falls, Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top (made famous by the popular song). Several designated backcountry campsites (camping by permit only) are located along trails.
• Wildlife viewing area